On December 6th, 2019, my mother breathed her final breath.
After four years of living with Stage Four breast cancer, her body betrayed her over the course of four weeks.
During the final four days, her organs shut down one by one. In the last four hours, family arrived to gather around her bedside. In the last four minutes, her lungs methodically continued their appointed task of breathing in-out, in-out, in-out, in-out. In the last four seconds, she breathed in-out a final time, and most assuredly her eternal spirit was wrapped up in the arms of her Lord and joyfully carried into her new home.
Though my mother did not necessarily breathe her last breath on her own terms, she did indeed breathe her last breath of her own volition, surrounded by loved ones, in a safe place, without any outside external constraint – which is how everyone’s final breath most certainly and surely ought to be breathed.
Breath is a grace, freely given by an All Powerful and Loving Creator who in the beginning breathed his own breath into mere dust of the ground, and behold – humanity came alive, made in the image of God to fellowship with him, to work alongside him, to worship and adore him, to be his representative in the earthly realm.
In the beginning, humanity (undeservedly and miraculously) breathed the Spirit of Yahweh, in-out, in-out, in-out, in-out, just as the Lord himself designed.
Until they didn’t.
Much too soon, the created rejected the Creator, vomited up the Spirit, spewed out the Breath, and proudly declared they would breathe only their own spirit, would determine their own fellowship, would work for their own ends, would worship their own desires, and would represent their own image. They said, “We won’t breathe You.” And the Creator’s intended image was shattered.
“We won’t breathe” (spoken to God) sowed seeds of “you won’t breathe” (spoken to a brother, then countless others) which led to “I can’t breathe” (gasped by a brother, then countless others) that have infiltrated and infected every corner of God’s good creation. What started as a single bite of blame and shame (“But it…”, “But he…,” But she..”) quickly seeped into the soil and the souls, growing into poisoned jealousy, jealous hatred, and hate-filled murder.
Humanity’s path was remapped by humanity itself – from loving light and life into defiled darkness and death.
Until it wasn’t.
Much sooner than we deserved, the incarnated True God-Man arrived, born into earth’s air, breathing with human lungs, revealing with shocking clarity the true Image of God. He lived, he loved, he healed, he taught, he preached.
Until he didn’t.
Until he breathed his last breath.
… for all of creation (which against its will was subjected to sin’s curse).
… for all of humanity (which by its own volition is subject to sin’s utter destruction).
Christ breathed his last – so we could be forgiven. (Oh Lord, we need your forgiveness.) [Romans 4:25]
Christ breathed again – so we could be made right with God. (Oh Lord, we need to be reconciled to you.) [Romans 4:25]
Christ breathed his Spirit on his few frightened followers – so they could be comforted and at peace. (Oh Lord, we need your comfort. Oh Lord, we need your peace.) [John 20:19-20]
Christ poured out his Spirit on his many gathered people – so they could be re-created into the image of God, as he had planned from the beginning. (Oh Lord, we need to be recreated into people who both breathe your Spirit and love others … all others.) [Acts 2]
It is Pentecost Sunday. Today we remember and celebrate God’s Spirit-Breath in a world where people too often breathe their last breath from disease, from hatred, from suffering, from murder – all because humanity still vomits up and spews out the Breath of Life.
Oh Lord: heal us.
Oh Lord: forgive us.
Oh Lord: comfort us.
Oh Lord: correct us.
Oh Lord: guide us.
Oh Lord: gather us.
Oh Lord: we need your Breath to fill our souls, to soften our hearts, to shape our thoughts, to heal our relationships, to reconcile your children one to another.
Oh Lord. Oh Lord ….